Perhaps it’s their catholic taste for precise habitat requirements that has captured my fascination for the ‘lark’ family in its global entirety.
Cryptic in colouration, and less than vocal in most instances, larking about in search of new species for my ‘life list’ has been a perennial and enjoyable challenge over the years.
And so it was with William’s Lark, first recorded in 1955 to the north of Isiolo, within what can best be described as a starkly beautiful landscape of arid scrub and rugged mountain ranges interspersed by numerous springs and swampy rivers dating back through the millennia to their volcanic origins.
This semi-arid region, known in colonial days as the Northern Frontier District, is sparsely populated and embraces a combination of national reserves of which Shaba was our destination in the search for this highly localised and dark volcanic soil loving lark with plumage colouration to match.
Attempts to track down this little known and highly localised endemic lark to Kenya in 2003 failed miserably due to a lack of locality related information and the sheer vastness of this wilderness area of varied habitat types.
This year we concentrated exclusively on the lava rock strewn plains and patches of grass coverin the search for this elusive species, made all the more challenging by the dry season and an absence of vocal display activity at the time.
Walking across the lava fields is a slow and serious ankle twisting event, but in the end we were successful in obtaining a selection of images depicting the key identification features, such as the white outer tail feathers of this particularly dark plumaged and highly localised lark, making the eventual sighting a high point during our stay in the Shaba National Reserve.